NATO-funded programme helps Kyrgyz military personnel transition to civilian life

  • Last updated: 13 Apr. 2012 15:00

Helping military personnel facing redundancy adapt to civilian life is a constant problem faced by the Kyrgyz Armed Forces as they undergo reform. With skills that do not always easily translate into the civilian labour market, life after the armed services can be difficult for those searching for a job. However, a three year-old NATO-funded retraining and resettlement programme is helping to mitigate the socio-economic consequences of the defence restructuring.

Learning new skills for a civilian job market

Between 2009 and 2013, over 1500 personnel will be released from the Ministries of Defence, Emergencies and Internal Affairs as well as the State Committee for National Security, State Border Guards, and the State Security Service. For many, finding jobs in the civilian job market can prove difficult.

To assist with the transition, NATO provided technical expertise to help Kyrgyzstan draft a programme of social adaptation for former military personnel. The Alliance is also financing retraining and resettlement programmes in Bishkek and Osh to smooth the reintegration of military personnel into civilian life.

As part of the programme, the Continuing Education Centre at the American University of Central Asia (AUCA) offers participants economics, information technology and intensive English courses. This spring, AUCA will also offer basic computer courses, career-development sessions and job-placement assistance to help with the change from military to civilian careers.

Over the last two years, more than 170 former military personnel have received retraining. This year alone, the programme will see an additional 140 graduates.

Life after the military

Sharipa Djailoeva and Ruslan Kadyrov served in the Kyrgyzstani military, both retiring with the rank of Major. But for Ms Djailoeva, three years of unemployment followed her retirement after more than 25 years of service. “Being unemployed for three years, I almost lost hope of adapting to civilian life and finding a job,” she says.

With his own retirement from the military looming after more than 20 years of service, Kadyrov decided to look at his options. When he saw an entrepreneurship course offered at AUCA, he decided to enroll.

Djailoeva also decided to sign up for the NATO-funded courses, receiving training in small business management. “The educational opportunity sponsored by NATO and provided by AUCA has changed my mind and my life,” she says.

After meeting during the course, Djailoeva and Kadyrov decided to start a small business together, offering a product popular among locals: sauerkraut. Inexpensive to make due to the low cost of cabbage in Kyrgyzstan, their idea did not require a large capital investment. Now, the two entrepreneurs sell sauerkraut to more than 150 grocery stores, with plans to diversify their business.

“Now that I, with my colleague, have launched my own business, I am full of energy and new ideas. I am very grateful to all parties involved in this educational project,” says Djailoeva.

Kadyrov echoes her optimism for the future. “I took advantage of the programme and developed a business plan that worked. Now I am confident and ready for further development of our enterprise,” he adds.

With newly acquired knowledge, participants in the retraining programme will have the tools they need to work in a variety of roles in the civilian sector or to start their own business, much like Djailoeva and Kadyrov. “This programme is very important because it enables them to receive additional training and additional professional qualifications which gives them a better chance to meet the requirements of the civilian labour market,” said Gerard Malet, the Project Officer from NATO’s Political Affairs and Security Policy Division.